Special Reports

Finley hermit left large estate in chicken coop in 1956

Another story of an immigrant who settled in the Tri-Cities. It is noteworthy that $25,000 in 1956 would have the spending power of over $200,000 today.

Finley hermit leaves estate worth $25,000-$30,000

By the Herald staff

Published on Oct. 16, 1956

There's a fortune of $25,000 to $30,000 waiting today for somebody who can prove he or she is an heir of John M. Kimberly, former Finley area resident.

Kimberly, known to his neighbors as a hermit, died in his Finley chicken coop home last April. Since then the administrator of the estate, Amon Mueller, and the estate lawyer, Danlie Hurson, have waded through thousands and thousands of letters, receipts, notes, bank statements, and other items to learn Kimberly was far from the nearly destitute recluse his surroundings indicated.

While the chicken and turkey raiser, who evidently settled in this area around 1909, was far from careful in his personal habits, he leaves strong signs of a shrewd business mind.

Tucked away among the seven cartons of letters and notes Kimberly had accumulated were stock certificates or stock listings mostly of the blue-chip variety. And although Kimberly's accumulation would lead one to think he has not thrown a thing away in the last 50 or 60 years, the administrator of the estate found there was other stock not accounted for when dividend checks started arriving.

Altogether, the 83-year-old native of Wales held stock in 16 firms, including General Motors, Anaconda Copper, Kennecott Copper, Ford Motor Co. of Canada, International Nickel, National Biscuit and Philadelphia Electric.

The Welshman also had something around $8,000 in savings deposits and another $2,000 in a checking account.

Rumor had it Kimberly was the buried-treasure type, and had a fortune stashed away around the building he and his chickens called home. A thorough check, including the razing of the building, failed to disclose more than a few dollars used to make change when someone came after chickens or eggs.

Not only that, but his investments showed he was not one to leave money in some cache when it could be earning interest.

Kimberly had his own system for collecting eggs, and was probably the only one that could make it work. Instead of having roosting places and nests for the chickens, he let them pick their own spots and over the years learned where these were -- in trees, in clumps of grass, under buildings, etc.

The hermit not only saved his money, but just about everything else. Among his records are such things as letters dating back to World War I, and receipts for chicken feed to the early 1900s.

It is his records that indicate he must have spent the last 50 years or so in the chicken and turkey business. Just about all the literature he had was concerned with such an occupation.

The records also show he might have been a prospector at one time. There is a lease for a gold min in Alaska, and stock for a one-third interest in another gold mine. There are also notes showing he loaned money to various individuals a good many years ago, but no indication of whether he was ever repaid or not.

To travel back and forth to town for supplies for himself and his brood, Kimberly had a 1936 Ford -- with only 20.000 miles on it.

One of the hermit's last business acts was to sell his farm to Phillips Pacific Chemical Co. as part of that firm's plant site.

Kimberly sold with the provision he would be able to live there the rest of his life.

That was not long. The Phillips firm sent out notices on Jan. 10 it was picking up the options and just a month and a half later Kimberly died, evidently of a heart attack.

In the search for heirs, just one possible prospect has been discovered. He is a man in London, England, who was at first believed to have been adopted by one of Kimberly's relatives. Indications are now the adoption was never made legally, and all relatives are now dead.

If no heirs are found, the estate will go to the state in 20 years.